The Irish company San Leon Energy and the Moroccan state oil company ONHYM "now intend to apply for a long licence, which may include 3D seismic over the broader structure (including the existing well), and the well may also be re-entered."
The Irish oil company San Leon held its Annual General Meeting on 20 September, where its intention to sign a new licence was mentioned in the 2015 Annual Report. San Leon is operator of two blocks which are located in the north-west and north-east part of the territory or Western Sahara, partially overlapping into Morocco proper.
The two exploration blocks, Tarfaya and Zag, respectively, are highly controversial, as the UN has stated that any further oil exploration in Western Sahara would be in violation of international law if the Saharawis were not consenting and do not benefiting.
Not a single reference to Western Sahara was made in San Leon's annual report. All references to the Zag and Tarfaya blocks give the impression that they are located in Morocco, which they are not. The misrepresentation has been systematic for a number of years to its investors, including probably to those who placed £29 million in the company in 2015, enabling the company to carry out the drilling in Western Sahara.
The company notes in its annual report that further spending on the Tarfaya oil shale licence "has been restricted, pending a recovery in the oil price".
The information about San Leon and ONHYM now seeking a new longer licence for the Tarfaya licence in the occupied territory, sheds light on the disappearance of the Tarfaya block from a recent ONHYM map, dated 24 June 2016, where the block had been removed.
San Leon Energy drilled the Laayoune-4 well during late 2015. The company announced it were on the traces of gas, but that it did not encounter what it was looking for. Thousands of Saharawis protested the drilling operation.
Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
It's not easy keeping up with all the different legal proceedings relating to Western Sahara. For the sake of clarity, here's an overview of the five different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.